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Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936)

 -  Comedy | Crime | Mystery  -  27 March 1936 (USA)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 1,082 users  
Reviews: 23 user | 9 critic

While visiting the circus with his family, Charlie is recruited by the big top's co-owner to investigate threatening letters that he's received.

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(original screen play), (original screen play), 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
George Brasno ...
Tim
Olive Brasno ...
Tiny
Francis Ford ...
John Gaines
Maxine Reiner ...
Marie Norman
John McGuire ...
Hal Blake
Shirley Deane ...
Louise Norman
Paul Stanton ...
Joe Kinney
J. Carrol Naish ...
Tom Holt
Boothe Howard ...
Dan Farrell
Drue Leyton ...
Nellie Farrell
Wade Boteler ...
Police Lt. Macy
Shia Jung ...
Su Toy
Edit

Storyline

Charlie receives fourteen free passes to the circus for him and his entire family but soon realizes that there are strings attached as the big top's co-owner asks his guest to investigate threatening letters that he's received. Before the famous detective can, the man is murdered. Charlie soon finds out that the co-owner was not a particularly pleasant or well-liked individual, and among the many suspects are his partner, a snake charmer and the menagerie's gorilla. Son Lee, usually an enthusiastic assistant for his father, is distracted by the show's beautiful contortionist. Written by Gabe Taverney (duke1029@aol.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

27 March 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Charlie Chan no Circo  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Actor Keye Luke reportedly conflicted with director Harry Lachman over the latter's treatment of the circus midgets in the movie. See more »

Goofs

The ape is shown peeling the banana from the top. Primates, except for humans, peel them from the bottom, thus doing away with those pesky stringy bits. See more »

Quotes

Charlie Chan: Free ticket to circus like gold ring on merry-go-round - make enjoyment double.
See more »

Connections

Followed by The Jade Mask (1945) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Personal Favorite Among The Chan Films
21 April 2005 | by (Biloxi, Mississippi) – See all my reviews

Filmed and released in 1936, CHARLIE CHAN AT THE CIRCUS is the eleventh film in the Chan series--and although many tend to dismiss it as "only average," it is among my favorites of the Chan films.

This episode finds Chan on vacation on the mainland with the entire family--but when he takes the family to the circus he finds himself embroiled in the murder of the show's co-owner, a man so widely disliked by his co-workers and employees that virtually any one might have killed him. Begged into assisting the investigation by circus performer "Lady Tiny," Chan and number one son Lee join the circus train in an effort to ferret out the truth.

Like most Chan films, the plot is full of holes--but what makes this installment particularly enjoyable is the supporting cast. Son Lee (the ever-enjoyable Keye Luke) finds romance with Chinese contortionist Su Toy (the beautiful Shia Jung) and trapeze footage of Marie Normand (played by real-life trapeze artist Maxine Reiner) offers a glimpse into the circus world of the 1930s that is quite fascinating. Most enjoyable of all, however, are Col. Tim and Lady Tiny, played by popular circus stars and occasional film actors George and Olive Brasno; their sideshow dance alone would make this film worth the effort. It's all a tremendous amount of fun.

Chan films are often accused of being racist, and critics often complain that the actors playing Chan wore "yellowface" make up. The films, however, must be seen within the context of their era. In the 1930s, Hollywood presented most Asian characters as either servile or as Fu Manchu-like entities; Chan was actually just about the only positive Asian character going, and as such the films were tremendously popular with Asian-American audiences of the era.

True enough, Chan is inevitably played by an occidental actor, but this was typical of the era, in which star status was considered more important than racial accuracy. (Other Asian characters are almost always played by actors of Asian heritage, with Keye Luke and Shia Jung cases in point.) Whatever the case, neither Warner Oland or the later Sidney Toler wore significant make-up for the role, and Oland--although a Swede by birth--actually had a strong strain of Asian ancestry in his family tree. But most significantly, while Chan often allows the suspects to dismiss him through their own prejudices, as a character he is always presented in a positive light.

While I would not rank it along such knock-out Chan films as CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OPERA or CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND, CHARLIE CHAN AT THE CIRCUS is a thoroughly enjoyable entry in the series, and in many respects the film's "old fashioned" qualities (watch out for that wild gorilla suit!) add to the fun. Recommended for Chan fans everywhere.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer


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